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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15
W. B. Boggs
Taken from The Baptists, Who Are They, and What Do They Believe, 1898
Another foundation principle of the Baptists, and one in which they differ from all the leading sects of Christians, is this: That personal faith in Christ is the great fundamental requirement and prerequisite to all church ordinances. They hold that none but those who have believed in Jesus to the saving of the soul are qualified for membership in His church.
We are thus led to the conclusion that ordinances are unmeaning and useless forms without faith in Christ on the part of the candidate himself. Rivers of water cannot wash away his sin; the sacred Supper cannot originate the first impulse of spiritual life.
Faith must be placed at the very threshold of religion. Previous to repentance and faith, man is an enemy against God. How then can the exercises of religion on the part of such a one be acceptable to Him? Faith is indispensable; nothing can be substituted for it; nothing can be given as an equivalent; its absence must render void all ceremonies. And it must be personal faith. Proxy is inadmissible. “Every one of us shall give account of himself to God.”
From this principle results our position and oft-repeated denial that we believe baptism to be a saving ordinance. There are none who are so determinedly opposed to this deadly error as Baptist.
And yet there are persons, intelligent and well informed in other things, who say, either through ignorance or malice, “Oh, the Baptists believe that you cannot be saved unless you are dipped!” And this statement sometimes comes from the pulpit.
There never was a charge made more utterly and absolutely false. They no more believe that than they believe one cannot be saved without the Lord’s Supper.
It is not the Baptists who, when one is taken suddenly ill, hurry away for a minister to come and baptize him. Baptism with us is a profession of faith already possessed, and we refuse to baptize any but those who declare their faith in Christ, and their belief that they have been born again, and their solemn determination to follow and serve him. We baptize not because it is saving, but because it is commanded.
Whether others regard it as really a saving ordinance, or as having some mysterious sort of saving influence, or at least as being a channel of grace, let their own statements declare.
The late Rev. Henry Melville, of London, a representative Episcopalian, with the Prayer-book open in his hand, says: “We really think that no fair, no straightforward dealing can get rid of the conclusion that the church holds what is called Baptismal Regeneration. You may dislike the doctrine, you may wish to have it expunged from the Prayer-book, but so long as I subscribe to that Prayer-book, and so long as I officiate according to the forms of that Prayer-book, I do not see how I can be commonly honest and deny that every baptized person is on that account regenerate.”
The “Augsburg Confession of Faith,” the Lutheran standard of doctrine, distinctly declares baptism to be necessary to salvation, and that through it infants become children of God (Art. 9).
The “Westminster Confession of Faith” declares baptism to be unto the party baptized “a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, of his ingrafting into Christ, or regeneration, of remission of sins, etc. And yet it is applied, by those who do not hold this creed, to persons who do not and cannot believe, so that it signifies in such cases, “ingrafting into Christ, regeneration, and remission of sins,” without personal faith.
In Wesley’s “Doctrinal Tracts,” pp. 246-259, he says: “By baptism we who are made the children of God,” and much more to the same effect.
Baptists unequivocally deny, both in their declarations of faith and by their practice, that they believe baptism to be a saving ordinance.